“Cancer and Me” … Southern California’s Director of Coaching Cle Kooiman has Always Been a Fighter on the Field, now his Biggest Fight is Off The Field
UPDATE: Cle Kooiman had his surgery and is now home recovering — but has “suffered a bit of a setback.” Cle texted me yesterday that the cancer has spread to 9 of the 16 lymph nodes expelled and has a Gleason of 9 — “which is not cool.” We look forward to doing a Part II with Cle soon.
“I have always been a very open person professionally and a very private person personally — and my old self would have kept this from everyone, including people close to me and who love me, but after seeing a good friend of mine, Heidi Romero, go through her ordeal publicly she has inspired me to do the same,” says Cle Kooiman.
Cle Kooiman, the Director of Coaching for IE Surf SC in California was recently diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer.
A former professional soccer player for seventeen years turned youth soccer coach, Kooiman is a leader in his community in the Inland Empire. A former US Men’s National Team Member, Kooiman played in the 1994 World Cup. The former Captain of Cruz Azul Mexico has earned many accolades as a pro and as a youth coach. The former US Men’s U20 National Team Assistant Coach, Kooiman was awarded The NIKE Youth Coach of the Year honor twice and strongly believes that ‘Without PASSION, you cannot succeed.”
With a beautiful girlfriend and two young children who love him — and hundreds of youth soccer players who look up to him, Kooiman has a strong support system and a great attitude.
Kooiman posted a very personal statement on Facebook a few days ago — wanting to share his story with an even wider youth soccer audience, Cle and I chatted yesterday and here is what he wants to share ….
I’m ready for the challenges ahead, personally and professionally.
Kooiman has enjoyed a highly successful career — a career in professional soccer that he worked hard for. The 1996 Major League Soccer All Star has never quit a fight.
I was never the guy with all the skill, the strongest or the fastest guy.
The point is that nothing came easy for me.
I was the committed and determined guy. I was the guy who, whenever struggling in any area, would stay after practice and focus on my weaknesses while everyone else had left.
I was the guy up at 4 am watching video of a player to make sure he couldn’t use his strengths against me.
I am the guy who was doing ice baths before people were doing ice baths.
I was also the guy who demanded excellence from all the players around me.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is it that you’re most proud of as the director of a youth soccer club?
Cle Kooiman: What am I most proud of? I have to think — is it winning the State, Regional and National Championships? I love winning, we all do, but is that what I want people to remember about me?
Leaving something better than it was when you started has always been important to me.
Getting our players into college and teaching them life’s lessons through discipline, hard work, as well as demanding excellence and commitment to the team — these are the most important factors for our program.
Building a community with a proactive youth soccer club board and a solid coaching staff — all working for the same common denominator built on a foundation of supporting and emphasizing academic excellence … this I am truly proud of.
I take great pride in our ‘PACE’ program. PACE stands for Player Academic Club of Excellence which highlights the individual players via our website who hold a 3.5 or higher GPA. These players get a training shirt with the word PACE on the back to help inspire others to follow suit, creating an environment of high academic achieving peers in the Inland Empire — a place that has been hit very hard economically.
And, lastly I’m proud of building relationships and inspiring my athletes and continually looking after them even as they graduate from college.
Diane Scavuzzo: To create a better future in youth soccer, and lead the way forward, what do you believe, as a Director of Coaching, is Important?
Cle Kooiman: It is important to positively impact every single kid.
For me in our club, it’s important that I know the player’s first name and shake hands or high five her or him— or make every effort to help our players get into college, making that extra call to two or three coaches who might be interested in one of our players.
Creating a brighter future for tomorrow is about being able to effect, in a positive manner, and give good guidance to the members of our club, which are also members of the community.
These are young kids and we need to guide them as best we can.
Then I always talk about the competitive spirit and the importance of discipline and commitment, not only to yourself but to your players and your teammates. I think, ultimately, this is what is going to let these young student athletes really succeed in life.
Diane Scavuzzo: So how do you feel about your surgery on Monday?
Cle Kooiman: I’m ready for it. I’m kind of looking at it like it’s a pre-game. The biggest game I’ve ever played in my life.
I’m ready for the fight. It’s like I want to go in, I want to have them put me to sleep, and when I wake up I want to say to them, ‘Hey we got everything.” I’m hoping to God that’s the way it goes and I’ll be here to watch my kids growing up.
Diane Scavuzzo: What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned?
Cle Kooiman: Wow. Basically don’t worry about the past. Just focus on everything you want to do in the future, whether my future is one year, five years, or is over 20 years.
I think in life we just generally put things off and I think the biggest thing I’m learning as I’m going thought this is that I will not put off anything.
If my son says, “Hey daddy, lets go to the beach.”I will never ever say: “You know, lets go tomorrow.” I’m going to grab him, we’re going to go get our stuff, and we’re going to go.
I think that is probably the biggest thing, it’s just not wasting time.
The biggest thing is not putting things off and taking care of business and being spontaneous, and really enjoying every single minute.
Diane Scavuzzo: Your youth soccer club joined Surf SC a few years ago. How has that been?
Cle Kooiman: Before joining surf, our club had one of the top girls teams in the country, but we could still not get into top college showcases… I said to myself, “If us going to Surf allows more players in my squad to be committed to college then its worth all its weight in gold.
Colin Chesters was the director of Surf SC at the time, and I called him and said, “If you can get my team into the Vegas showcase, then I’ll push to have our club become an affiliate.”
Colin called me up two days later and said, “Hey, I got you in.” Since then, we have grown from 13 to 52 teams and we have one team that is ranked #1 in the state on GotSoccer.com and two teams ranked top of Southern California — our G03 and our G9 9s which are both tied.
Diane Scavuzzo: What has it been like since your diagnosis?
Cle Kooiman: In February I found out that I have an aggressive fast growing prostate cancer.
The last few months have been a whirlwind for me.
What’s crazy is that most men have a slow growing type of prostate cancer which will not affect their lives other than keep an eye on it.
My prostate cancer however is the pinchy (pinchy is Spanish for something bad) stupid, fast, aggressive growing one that only affects 1 in 1000 men with cancer.
In the last two months, there have been at least 20 hospital visits and I have had 18 biopsies, an MRI, a CT scan, bone scan, given lots of blood and so many needles, needles, and more needles.
i have been Injected with Lupron, a hormone medicine which turns me into a “menopausal woman” with all of the wonderful side effects associated — headaches, short temper, irritable, 6 to 8 hot flashes a day, weight gain even on my diet, swollen ankles and eye lids, blurry vision, and so many other wonderful side effects.
I think every man needs to get a month’s supply of Lupron to see what women go thru.
Anyways this week is about gym, eating well, poker on Friday’s, two pre-op meetings, and the last meeting prior to my surgery with my doctor, who is the head of the Robotic Surgery Department.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the plan?
Cle Kooiman: Plan of action is surgery on Monday, March 26th for the full removal of my prostate and lymph system 7 deep on right and left.
I’ll be out of commission for a few weeks, then I’ll start radiation. So, everyone, if my emails are little slow or return calls are not coming back quite fast enough please be patient with me.
For me, I’m not looking for the “Oh man, so sorry.” Just give me a good hand shake and a hug — if you have something inspiring or some great cancer info to share, great. Or time for a prayer — then I’m good.
My cup is half full and I’m ready for this.
My Doctor says he has only seen 3 cases like mine, go figure, I never do anything small. I always have to do it with a bang.
At the end of the day I know in my heart that I have had an amazing life.
I am a fighter, this is my story:
I started playing soccer at the age of 9 when most professionals started at the age of 3.
Having parent coaches until I was 14 years old was not great for my development. Spending time on the ball was my only true growth in the sport at my early ages.
Having 6 kids in the family with one super mom driver with only one car — many times I had to run 2-4 miles to get to a practice or get dropped off 2 hours early at a field.
I’m not complaining because later these early hurdles soon became catapults.
The first month of playing in Juarez Mexico when the press was asking why they brought me in to the team and all stated I’d be the first to be released …. in the end I played 36 of 38 games that year and the last game the fans ran onto the field and carried me off to the sideline.
Changing teams to Cruz Azul and the same stuff with the press. They were saying this Gringo would never step onto the field and play for the giant club. The first 4 games I sat on the bench for the first time in my life.
The best friend to a professional athlete sitting on the bench is a starter getting injured.
It’s also important what you do with the opportunity.
I played every game thereafter. Mid-way through the season we got a new coach. 2 months Later he came to my room during mandatory concentration — when all athletes had to stay in the hotel two days prior to important games.
I thought I was being released when he said that I was the man to lead our team and named me Captain of the squad — my greatest soccer honor.
The first day of National team camp when one of the Full National Team players tried to go by me and I laid a pretty aggressive tackle on him and stole the ball and he jumped up and said what the F are you doing. I told him if he didn’t want to get dropped again to go play wide and not near me.
I wasn’t there to make friends — I was there to make the team a ‘team’ and this team had been together for two years. I had to break down all walls and Bora gave me that opportunity.
I am a fighter: I have never shied away from challenges and I’m not going to start now.
Cle Kooiman’s Playing Experience:
1998: Miami Fusion, Major League Soccer
1996-1997: Tampa Bay Mutiny, Major League Soccer 1993-1994: US Men’s National Team World Cup Team 1994 1990-1992: Cruz Azul Mexican First Division
1988-1990: Cobras Mexican 1st Division:
1988: US Men’s National Team
1986-1987: California Kickers, Arena Soccer League 1982-1986: LA Lazers, Major Indoor Soccer League